A Paradigm Shift
In our culture, the most frequent use of the term "binary" is as the ultimate base language of all of our electronic and computer systems. Most computer systems are described in multiples of bytes (e.g., kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes, terabytes, etc.). A byte is a group of eight "bits", and a bit is simply "a unit of information expressed as either a one or a zero in binary notation". So, binary notation is simply a series of ones and zeroes. Like every other number system, the larger you make the numeric value, the longer the numeric string appears, so while the value of a binary number may look large, it's probably not so large when you convert it into a base-10 value (or "decimal" value, the one we normally use), and if you dig down far enough, everything you're reading now is all stored in 'binary'. There's an old joke that says "there are 10 kinds of people in the world; those who know binary, and those who don't."
The problem is that, because the binary strings (i.e., the count of bits) grow so large so quickly, our more modern computing systems require numerically vast amounts of memory and storage space to even complete a simple operation. That's why a lot of big-money entities (like Amazon, Google, and even a few governments) are investing in a newer technology called "quantum computing".
Think of a coin spinning on its edge. When you look at it, you can usually catch brief glimpses of either side of the coin, heads or tails. This is the idea behind binary computing - only two values: heads or tails, positive or negative. But what if the coin could be both heads AND tails at the same time? Or two heads? or two tails? This is the idea behind quantum computing - instead of only two values, there are four: no/no, no/yes, yes/no, and yes/yes. By using quantum computing, you've just doubled the number of operations you can perform in the same amount of space you would have with a binary system.
"Against the run of the mill, swimming against the stream, life in two dimensions is a mass production scheme."
So, why the lesson in remedial computer science? Well, because the terms 'binary' and 'quantum' are not just limited to computer science, the terms are also used to describe how people think, reason, and consider the events in their lives.
Let's start with 'binary thinking'. This is a system of thought that predominantly considers things in an "either/or", "right/wrong", "black/white" sort of way, simply ignoring any subtleties or considerations of third or more alternatives. The appeal of binary thought is its simplicity because absolutely everything can be broken down into one of two choices. People who operate with 'binary thinking' cannot allow for the possibility that there could be an "in-between state", or a "shade of grey", and if you try to explain that there is one, they will never acknowledge it because, for them, anything other than one choice or the other is just too complex for them to comprehend. More often though, they will devote a great deal of time and energy to mentally manipulate whatever it is until it finally emerges as a simple binary choice.
Then there's 'quantum thinking'. This system of thought allows the person "to hold two or more opposing thoughts at the same time; the ability to simultaneously view any situation from multiple perspectives." Unfortunately, despite such a simplistic explanation, quantum thought is not simple to perform. It involves a shift from an older, linear way of thinking into a newer, more advanced way of thinking. It's both uncomfortable and frightening, and most people will go out of their way to avoid anything that might remotely be considered uncomfortable or frightening.
"Some world views are spacious, and some are merely space."
Currently, American politics is the old school 'binary paradigm'; the idea that you must vote for either the Democrats or Republicans. Just like the binary thinkers who are dismissive of any alternative, those who promote the 'binary paradigm' will mentally manipulate their reasoning to reinforce their binary choice. I've collected a few of their manipulative ideas over the years. See if you've heard any of these:
- "They are the only ones who have any chance at winning."
- "Voting for anyone else is a 'protest' vote."
- "Voting for a third party is a 'wasted' vote."
- "Now is not the time to vote for anyone other than [Candidate A]. A vote for [Candidate C] is a vote for [Candidate B] (who absolutely must be defeated). You can vote for [someone other than Candidate A or B] in four years." (This one is my personal favorite because I have heard that same sentiment repeated in every election cycle for almost 30 years.)
But a new paradigm is taking root in American politics, and people are embracing it; the 'quantum paradigm' which embraces the idea of candidates from political parties OTHER than the Republicans or Democrats. In the minds of (what I have taken to calling) "quantum voters", the binary candidates are simply not good enough. Quantum voters want alternatives, and they want more choices. In a very real sense, they want "more, better, different", and the binary paradigm simply does not offer that.
It's both uncomfortable and frightening, but so was everything worthwhile that you have ever done.
Prove me wrong.